History of Public Health - Seattle & King County
This photographic history has been adapted from the King County Archives' "Second Looks: Selections from the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health collection." Click on an image to the right to view an exhibit.
A dual spirit of reform and generosity gave birth to the public health movement in Seattle and King County. Both the City of Seattle and King County recognized the fundamental importance of protecting the health and welfare of all of their residents. As City and County health functions developed, however, it became increasingly evident that each entity was directing the bulk of its own resources towards different aspects of public health: the City, on prevention, and the County, on treatment and curative medicine.
The City and County eventually coordinated their resources and programs through a merger of the two departments. The amalgamation of the departments began in 1947 and was formalized in 1951. As stated in The Road to Health, an official departmental history, "the six established services of a full-time health department" came to the fore: "sanitation, vital statistics, maternal and child health services, communicable disease control, laboratory service and health education."
The images selected for this exhibition represent but a small sampling of these services. Encompassing the period from 1909 through 1970, the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health photograph collection at the King County Archives includes nearly two thousand prints and negatives that demonstrate a more comprehensive range of Public Health Department activities than could be included here. We hope that a second look at this rich collection--one of the first collections formally acquired by the King County Archives program--will serve as an inspiration and as a valuable resource for local area historians working across a variety of fields.